Like most college students, I procrastinate pretty much everything and have so many ways to justify it, each one equally misguided. Faced with a 30- or 45-minute chunk of free time, I’ll tell myself this just isn’t enough time to get anything meaningful done and will instead end up watching basketball highlights or mindlessly scrolling through my news feed for the whole time.
On the flip side, I tell myself I thrive under pressure. This means that when I block out three or four hours for homework, I’ll often watch the clock waste away until there’s only an hour or so left, at which point I can feel the pressure and begin to work eagerly and urgently.
I’ve tried a few things to escape the grip of procrastination, and some, like using Self Control on my computer, have helped. As the quest to reduce distraction and increase productivity continues, I have come across the Pomodoro Technique, and it is extremely helpful. The technique breaks work up into 25-minute increments, or Pomodoros, with a five minute break between each. This makes me realize the value of small windows of time, and helps me feel a sense of healthy urgency even when I have all the time in the world.
The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1992, and it goes like this:
- Choose a task or assignment you need to get done
- Gather the necessary materials
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task, without distractions, until the timer is up. This is called completing a Pomodoro
- Don’t hesitate to take steps to help you block out distractions. Turn off your phone or use Self Control if you have to. Don’t worry, you can indulge again when the timer is up.
- After 25 minutes, take a short, 5-minute break. Check your phone, grab coffee, fill your water bottle, use the bathroom, rock out to a music video, or do whatever else you need to do to clear your mind and get ready to refocus
- Be careful that these five minutes don’t turn into 10 or 15 though, because that would defeat the purpose of this productivity method
- After five minutes, put away the distractions, and work hard again for another 25 minute interval, or Pomodoro
- Repeat this process again and again, and take a longer, 15 or 20 minute break after every four or five Pomodoros
It’s great to set a goal of how many Pomodoros you want to complete in a day, and then work to achieve that goal. It’s amazing how three hours of work becomes so much more manageable when it’s just seven Pomodoros.
So why is it called Pomodoro? The original timer Cirillo used was a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato, which is pomodoro in Italian. While you certainly don’t need your own tomato-shaped kitchen timer to follow this method, there are some cool apps like this one for iOS and this one for Android that facilitate this method.